Taking a photo with a smartphone

4 Tips for Taking Better Mobile Photos

The ubiquitous smartphone means always having a camera in your pocket. Learning how to use the camera properly can assist public relations professionals in capturing some quality photographs without having to buy professional level equipment.

Here are some basic photography tips that will help you break out of the “point and shoot” mind frame.

1.  Understand photography principles

Buying the latest smartphone and accessories does not guarantee you a great photo. Photography is both an art and a science that requires knowledge and know-how. Take time to read-up on the following photography principles:

  • Rule of thirds
  • Leading lines
  • Symmetry and patterns
  • Framing
  • Viewpoint/Depth

Understanding how to apply these principles will help you take better mobile photos and allow you to grow as a photographer.

2.Look at your lighting

One major weakness of the smartphone or tablet is the inability to capture images in low light environments. To compensate for this problem you will want to put as much light as you can on the subject. This might require relocating the subject or the smartphone to another place.

Although smartphones and tablet’s have LED flashes, this type of flash can be very intense and over expose areas of your composition.

 3. Use the right apps

Use the right tool for the right job. Native photo apps have advanced in features over the years, but are still geared towards the point-and-shoot crowd. Third party app designers are more focused on developing apps for serious photography buffs and professionals. Here are three apps have been named the Best 2014 Photo Apps by Lifehacker and CreativeBlog.com:

  • ProCamera 8. $2.99 This is a DSLR emulator that allows you to take control of shutter speed, ISO,white balance and even exposure.

  • Camera+ $2.99. Is easy to use, offers a number of features, and allows you to set the exposure and focus separately. The app also includes a nice grid overlay to help you apply the rule of thirds.
  • Adobe Photoshop Touch $4.99. You can use this app to quickly edit your photos on the fly. Although this is a great app, it contains too many features to list and does have a bit of a learning curve.

Keep in mind no app is going to replace a professional level DSLR and Photoshop, but these apps will help you control the quality of those mobile captures.

4. Invest in simple accessories

A simple smartphone camera can only take you so far in the photography world. If you consistently rely on mobile photos for your multimedia needs, a small investment can significantly improve your quality. A one time investment of $200.00 can help the quality of your photos.

Do you have a smartphone photography tip to share? Let me know in the comments below.



Is Confide a Snapchat for Professionals?

We love the idea of privacy. In the era of big data it is comforting to believe that there is a communication channel that will allow us to securely send and receive sensitive data. This idea has fueled a number of developers to create mobile apps that promise anonymity.

Readers are well associated with with the popular picture sharing app, Snapchat. Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users to share photos or short videos. After the picture or video has been received it automatically self-destructs in a matter of seconds.

While Snapchat has been a huge hit in among teenagers and young adults, a new startup, Confide, is creating a “Snapchat” for professionals.

Confide differs from Snapchat as it allows users to send text messages. In addition, it applies end-to-end encryption and promises that messages are never stored on their servers.

Although this is an intriguing product, lets examine why Confide and other “anonymous” apps are far from secure or anonymous.

Confide’s Security Features

Confide offers several “unique” security features to deter receivers from taking screen shots. It sends an alert to both parties if someone attempts a screen shot and each line of text is concealed until you swipe your finger over the line. Although these are interesting features, an alert might not be received if you do not have a cellphone signal.

In addition, the swipe feature does not keep someone from recording the message with another device. Users can feel slightly securer knowing that the company uses end-to-end encryption, however given enough time any encryption scheme can be broken. Recent reports by cryptography experts also suggest that ‘end-to-end encryption’ is quickly becoming a pointless security feature.

The Promise of Anonymity

Hopefully, the above rundown has given you a slight pause about using an encryption app. I would like to take a moment to review the general myth behind these types of apps. These apps promise you a sense of privacy and anonymity. I think these myths are believed due to a general lack of knowledge about how technology and the Internet works.

The idea of anonymity goes against a primary rule of using the Internet. Everything you post or send online is public. When you send something through the Internet it goes through a number of servers and locations. Copies are created and information is saved. Even if the private sector is not storing your data  you have no idea which governmental agencies are saving your data for future analysis.

Who’s Collecting Information?

Remember the saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?”. Nothing is free, a business has to make money, if not the business goes bankrupt. Frequently companies that offer “free services” are gathering and selling your personal data to other companies and third parties. Have you ever actually read an app’s Terms of Service or Privacy Policy?

Once again I question whether the general public realizes an exchange is taking place. You are buying the “free app” with your personal information. For example, a very popular Android flashlight app is under investigation by the FTC for transmitting users’ precise location and device identifier to other companies.

What this means for PR

The idea that technology (specifically the Internet) provides a secure and private means of transmitting confidential information is a myth. As public relations professionals we should realize the potential damages and ethical issues surrounding the use of these types of “anonymous” communication apps.

We should undertake an advocacy role in explaining the weaknesses of these apps to our various stakeholders and administrators. In fact, like social media, it might be necessary to address these types of technologies in our digital communication policies. Do you use an encryption app? If so I would like to hear your comments and thoughts on this topic.


Atmospheir: Your New Address Book

The Address Book 1.0

Everyone uses an address book. It’s a valuable cache of essential contact information that helps us connect to our family, friends, and colleagues. While we rely on address books everyday, our standard Web 1.0 address book apps (think Apple Address Book and Microsoft Outlook) are bulky, and unintuitive.

The primary downside to these address books? You must manually enter and update information for each contact. What happens when a contact changes phone numbers, Facebook profiles, or Twitter names? You are left with no option but to engage in time-consuming Internet searches. What is the Solution?

Atmospheir: The Smart Address Book

Enter the smart address book. Smart address books have the potential of changing the way we manage our personal and professional relationships. These address books are designed with the Web. 3.0 in mind and have the ability to “pull” in information from a number of different media platforms, including social network sites, automatically updating information about your contacts.

A number of apps (Smartr Contacts, and Addappt) have attempted to integrate social media and standard contact information, however, none have captured the public’s attention and have seen wide spread adoption.

A new app, Atmospheir, may completely break through this adoption barrier. Atmospheir is essentially a smart address book with a focus on relationship management through social media. “…it is the first application that aims to address all stages of the contact management life cycle: creation, storage, expansion and retention,” said CEO Matt Crumrine,

Atmospheir has several interesting features that meet the needs of Web 3.0 users including perpetual updates, varying access modes, privacy and location specific tools. These tools make your current address book look like a rolodex.

New Tech, New Issues

While the primary advantage of smart address books is the ability to receive perpetual updates and connect all your media platforms, it is also the downside. A major element of relationship management is the ability to control the flow of information. For example, you might want to share your Facebook profile with friends, but do not want potential employers to have access. The winner of the smart address book wars will be the app that can balance the privacy vs. access issue.

With the advantages offered by smart address books it might be time for those Web 1.0 address books to rest in peace. Will Atmospheir be the winner? Only time will tell.


Google’s Field Trip App Opens New Paths

Today, Google announced that Field Trip will grant free admission to 13 U.S. museums for a limited time. Never heard of Field Trip? Lets take a look at this app and its potential as a PR tool.

Field Trip (iOS and Android) was developed by Google’s Niantic Labs. It offers users location relevant information while on the move. The app runs in the background on your phone and can provide notifications when you are in close proximity to a “point of interest”. Currently the app groups points of interest into several broad categories including historic spots, museums, restaurants, and events.

The Potential

Open houses and company tours are special events that are designed to strengthen public opinion. Typically, PR pros use traditional media to publicize the event, however Google’s Field Trip provides a new opportunity to reach key publics.

The GPS activated notification service can help potential customers “discover” your company. How many times have potential customers walked by your company’s office and not realized it? Field Trip offers another avenue to digitize your brand.

Beyond simple GEO tagging, Field Trip offers brands a new channel for promotions. The app is a perfect platform for launching special “walk-by/walk-in” discounts and timed promotions. It is also available in 30+ languages which gives you more flexibility.

The Catch

Although you cannot petition Field Trip directly for a listing, SEO, social media mentions, and user feedback can increase the likelihood of getting your brand listed. Google also allows users to post new locations on Google+ and after an unknown magical number of “likes” Google will add the location to Field Trip.

Hopefully in the future Google will release more information regarding the submission of potential locations. In the meantime I would keep an eye on this app.

iPhone Apps

5 Great Apps for PR Pros

Smartphones are now an ever-present part of our daily lives. They serve as a virtual extension of our abilities and within the field of public relations they are important tools to stay connected. If you’re not sure about what apps to download, start with these five.

Media Scanning

Media consumption is a daily part of public relations. Keeping track of news, business trends, pop culture, technology and other information is essential because of its potential impact on our clients. The amount of information can be overwhelming.

Luckily one app, Pulse, (Free – iPhone, Android) can help you manage your information intake. Pulse is a RSS reader app that lets you subscribe to relevant information feeds (blogs, magazines, news outlets). It has a very pleasing visual layout, allows you to sync feeds across devices and offers intuitive social media integration.


Most PR professionals travel, whether it’s the morning commute or a trans-contentinal flight we need accurate up-to-date information to keep us going. FlightTrack Pro  ($9.99 – iPhone, Android) is a great app for finding flights and will alert you about any flight changes. Although the basic FlightTrack app is free the pro version offers a number of additional features (weather updates, baggage claim information, seating info and calendar syncing) that are very useful and worth the added cost.


Sometimes it is critical to have a last minute meeting before you send out a news release or hold a press conference. GoToMeeting (Free – iPhone, Android) is a great app that allows you to quickly conduct an on-the-fly meeting with your team. The app allows you to show slide presentations, spreadsheets or reports on-screen.

Social Media

Odds are you have multiple social media accounts. Because its hard to just choose one, here are two apps to simplify your social media world. Tweetbot ($2.99 – iPhone) is a great alternative to the native Twitter app found on the iPhone and offers a number of features (muting by keyword and client, unified searching multiple accounts) that every power user needs. In terms of Facebook, one app still provides great support for updating fans on the go, Pages Manager (Free – iPhone, Android)  Pages allows users to post new updates, add photos and receive basic measurement stats.

Design Applications

Imagine this scenario. You’re at a press party and have just captured a great photo with your smartphone. You are live tweeting the event and you want to post it quickly to your social media feed. The only problem is that the photo is a little fuzzy and needs to be cropped. Enter Adobe Photoshop Express (Free – iPhone, Android). Photoshop express will allow you to perform simple but powerful edits (cropping, rotating, color correction, and filters) quickly and easily.

What are your favorite apps for PR work? Let me know in the comments below.